It's after midnight, and I just got home. The past two days, I've been working for Hard Labor Ready. And I pulled a pretty good gig. Yesterday, I showed up down there in Willow Grove at about 10:30 a.m. And they had work for me. I was partnered with these two guys, Leon and Leroy, and we were dispatched to... a Ho(t)me(n) Depot!
In the Kitchens and Baths Department no less!
Y'see, among the cabinets we sell are these all-ready-to-take-home-in-a-box jobs. By the standards of Wuperior Soodcraft, they're absolute crap: 1/4" backs, held together with staples and dowels. At my Ho(t)me(n) Depot, they're all down an aisle tucked away behind appliances where no one ever goes. The Hard Labor Ready client was a contractor who has a job with the manufacturer of those crappy cabinets. Apparently they are universally disdained by Ho(t)me(n) Depot staff, and as at our store, they're all crammed onto the racks haphazardly. So this guy travels the country--literally--going from Ho(t)me(n) Depot to Ho(t)me(n) Depot, tidying up the crappy cabinets aisle in each store he visits.
Yesterday we worked at a store in Bensalem, PA. When I was a senior in high school, there was this really hot blond kid who transferred in who had moved up from Bensalem. Bensalem is in The Lower End Of The County. I live in Upper Bucks County, which used to be The Land Of The Dog In The Back Of The Pickup Truck, but is now all about McMansions. Horses have replaced Holsteins in what was previously serious dairy farm country. But the character of Lower Bucks remains relatively unchanged. U.S. Steel used to be down there in Fairless Hills, and Lower Bucks was all about steelworkers and the children of steelworkers. We were farmers and hicks and they were hard drinking Irish and Italian factory workers. So this blond kid from high school, being from Bensalem, was sort of exotic, and thus I thought he was smokin' hot. So working for a day in the Ho(t)me(n) Depot in Bensalem brought with it the frisson of Seeing How The Other Half Lives, so to speak.
And yeah, the men were hot.
And down in Bensalem, the crappy cabinets aisle got a lot more traffic than at my store. Which brought about a realization: even people who don't have a lot of money deserve kitchens that look good, and a nice look can be achieved with crappy cabinets for not a lot of money.
In the future, I'm gonna pay a little bit more attention to the crappy cabinets aisle at my store.
So the work was really hard. We'd take all the cabinets--some of them weighing a lot--off the steel racks, re-arrange the shelves on the racks--think of working with a giant heavy gauge steel Erector Set--and then put all the cabinets back in a more rational arrangement. We got there at 1:30, and we weren't finished until almost ten.
And today, I got up and did it again.
Leroy carried over from the first day with me, but Leon was a No Show, so instead, we went out with Jim, a man who looked like he was carrying some heavy burden, and Johnny, who explained the wreckage of his finances brought about by child support to us on the drive down.
Today, we started off at a Ho(t)me(n) Depot in South Philadelphia at 22nd and Oregon Avenue.
Total Hot Guido Ville. Loved it.
Guys would stop me as I was heading out to fetch stuff from the truck or something and say, "Yo! So's that ink you got, Boss, that totally fukken kills."
I was in heaven.
Lot's of Man Banking went down.
We finished up at the South Philly store around 3 p.m., and then headed up to the opposite corner of Philadelphia to the Ho(t)me(n) Depot on Castor Avenue off Aramingo. (Hearing how the locals pronounce "Aramingo" is a hoot, but doesn't represent well in print.)
Driving there up Aramingo Avenue, we passed through Kensington (Irish) and into Port Richmond (Polish). Philadelphia is like that. Even on Manhunt and such, whereas in other citites, guys might express a preference for "Black or Latino Guys" or the occasional "Middle Eastern Guys step to the front of the line (Again: you have a line? Who the hell are you?)," in Philadelphia, it's not unusual for manhunters to specify Irish, Italian, Polish, Welsh, Sicilian, and to self-identify along those lines, too. Not a lot of melting that goes on in that pot.
Being an undifferentiated mutt myself, I usually have to explain that my people are from Schuykill County ("the Coal Regions"), and that usually does the trick when someone is trying to pin me down.
Again, amongst men buying construction materials who favor sopresanta or kielbasa, much Man Banking ensued.
And oh man did we bust our asses.
And that great thing happened. That thing where you bond with the men you're working closely with, when everybody is giving it all they got, getting the job done. I got to know the guy who hired us some, and Jim and Leroy, too. (Johnny inexplicably headed for the bus after we finished up at the South Philly store, and in his absence we decided that he was Afraid Of A Little Hard Work, which is about the lowest form of life.
At 10 p.m., as Ho(t)me(n) Depot was closing, we stood on the sidewalk outside, sweaty and smelling ripe, our eyes gleaming, catching a smoke while contractor guy filled out our paperwork.
Since it turned out that I could slightly re-arrange my drive home to drop Jim and Leroy at their respective front doors, I decided to be a Good Guy and do that. And felt good about that all the way home. And I still do.
What the hell.
Hard Labor Ready pays me minimum wage. After taxes are taken out, I'm bringing home slightly less than $6/hour. It's hard, back-breaking work. Getting out of bed tomorrow morning will be a challenge.
Why am I having such a good time doing this?
What's wrong with me?
Working working working and almost no money to show for it. But life is sweet. Life is good.
The Baron opines that this will all be great material for my novel. But it doesn't feel like that. It feels real. It feels like life. It feels like my life.
And my life is pretty good.